We sat down with my aunt and asked her some questions about her "table trail" and why cooking to her is so special. She is sitting with my dad who is acting as her translator. Hope you enjoy! PS: her simple and delicious summertime bruschetta recipe is at the bottom of this post!
Our favorite moments in Monte Di Procida were spent sitting around the table with our family. Whether it be at a restaurant like Happy Hours (yes, with an s) enjoying an amazing cisteca (cheesesteak) with a birra, gathering all together for a multi-course meal on a Sunday afternoon or a picnic of salumi, cheese and bread on the boat, those moments are what stick out to us as being the best of times.
When we were trying to come up with our blog name, we asked ourselves what it was that we wanted to gain from this year abroad and the common theme was the simple act of just getting to know others and to learn about their culture. We realized that back home, the way we felt connected to others was through gathering around the table and breaking bread so with those things in mind, we figured the best way to experience life with people from around the world was to start by sharing a meal with them - and with that, we would also get to experience local foods and dishes that made their hearts smile. That is where The Table Trail comes from and we are so excited to share our time with our family in Italy in such a special way - with recipes and unforgettable moments spent in the kitchen and around the table.
I wrote about some of our favorite experiences in our previous post but this one is dedicated to the more intimate moments and conversations that were had while gathering together. I spent a lot of time in my aunt’s garage, watching her whip up dish after dish of food as I sat theirs in awe of her finesse and easy movement around her kitchen. She would throw a dash of salt in the boiling pot of pasta water while quickly dicing up tomatoes and rinsing fresh seafood that her family friend caught that morning. You're probably wondering why I said I was in her garage - well, she has a kitchen in her home but, she does her heavy cooking in the kitchen that her and my uncle built in their garage so they could have more space and storage. We would be sitting at the table and all of a sudden, it was full of food and we were left wondering, where the heck did all this food come from? My aunt would get up at the early morning hours and begin preparing lunch in the garage that was full of wonderful smells and fresh ingredients. She is such a wonderful woman who truly loves her family through food.
I was the annoying one in the corner with a notepad in hand and camera set on a tripod to capture every move she made and ingredient she used. I did not want to miss a thing! I asked question after question: What did you add? How much pepper? Do you use olive oil or sunflower oil? Where did you learn to make this? How annoying am I being? Etc. she answered every question with a slight wave of her hand and the look of, “I don't know how much I add, just enough for it to taste delicious!” I was completely mesmerized by how easy she made it all look. It was in that garage where I sat with my Nonna and together, we watched my aunt cook the same recipes that my Nonna made for her family that she has since passed on.
Once the table was set and the food was placed infront of us, we would begin our journey through each dish and each glass of wine and "ohh" and "ahh" and "yumm" until we were too full to function. In between bites, we talked and talked about anything and everything. Past memories, current happenings, jokes, Italian vs. American culture, and what our plans were for the days to come. Conversation would linger through the meal and carried over to the bowl of fresh peaches, dessert and espresso. (Ps: we learned how to make the perfect cup of espresso with the best crema ever courtesy of my uncle! I shall post a video of it for you to feast your eyes on soon.)
I will end with clarifying the "myth" that Italians are nuts about their food and let you know that yes, the myth is true. But more so than that, they are nuts about their family. They love and their love is as strong as the limoncello they pour at the end of the meal. The food Is amazing the meal encourages you to be present and gathering around the table forces you to slow down and just enjoy time with the ones you love. I hope that with this mindset fresh in your mind, you'll invite someone over for a meal and engage or inspire you to be the annoying one in the corner of someone's kitchen learning the secrets and the stories behind their favorite recipes.